The Midnight Thirsts Anthology, which includes my novella, Mist and Midnight, will be released next Sunday! So excited… I’m keeping tabs on the publisher’s website. Please go to Melange Books and look around!
I enjoy spy fiction. I’ve become a huge fan of the Chuck series, and I’ve always had a thing for superheroes…not necessarily for their powers (although those are certainly fun) but because of the challenges they face in leading two lives. I find the conflict between having an alter ego and an “official” life to be really interesting. It’s isolating for the individual, yet necessary for the protection of the people loved by the hero. That isolation in turn leads the hero into sometimes questioning their own role, and purpose. I love that. It’s very Shakespearian, isn’t it? It’s the essence of asking the question, “Who am I, and why am I here again?”.
I write under a pseudonym at the moment, for two main reasons: I want to separate my two professions for a little while, and I think it’s kind of romantic. I’m a sap, what can I say… I cry at the end of Disney movies. Hell, I cried all the way through Bridesmaids, caught up in the emotions of the protagonist’s struggles. In my “official” life as a teacher and a parent, I have a lot going on as we all do, but as my alter ego Tori, I can let some of that go. Or try to, at least. Thinking as Tori, I am able to separate a little while from the mundane and really sink into the fictional world I am creating. It’s a secret pleasure.
But it’s also a problem.
When you have an alter ego, as discovered by Chuck, Peter Parker, Superman, etc., it can get exhausting at times to keep up. I am no superhero (as much as I’d like to pretend), and I’m not even a supermom. I know some supermoms, and in comparison, I muddle along much as my own mother did, but my children are happy and healthy and well-behaved (most of the time…especially around relatives and babysitters and in public), so I guess I’m doing something right.
But I digress.
How do you find balance when you are living two lives? As you can see, I find it difficult or impossible to completely separate my “official” self from the writer, but I don’t think it’s necessary to invent a wholly different persona. I have considered it. But my children, my partner, my regular job, these are all part of who I am. Where I run into difficulty is making time or room for the writer, in the daily patterns of being a mom and a wife. My alter ego, Tori, craves time to dive into the fictional world. I know that one of the markers of a professional writer, is someone who write for a set time every day. I started the summer with a vision of writing for a few hours every afternoon, in my backyard (weather permitting), but so far, I’ve only managed to do this twice. The priorities of parenting, cleaning, and spending time with my other half must be met as well. So by rights, I should not yet call myself a professional writer.
How does someone live two lives, and find time to sleep? What does a professional writer who works from home do when the five year old refuses to be put off, the laundry piles, and the dog needs a walk? My spouse is very supportive and understanding, but he cannot do everything, nor do I expect him to. He gives me time when I need it, but he can’t cover for me every day. The mom needs sleep, but the writer wants to write!
So if you have an alter ego, I’d like to know – how do you separate and yet maintain a balance? Do you mark a time schedule on the fridge and stick to it? Do you have a room in the house where you can lock the door? What do you do when, in your set writing time, someone small will not leave you alone? I guess the easy answer is to stop and come back to it later…but in my case, often that ‘later’ doesn’t come.
When I first started working on my current novel, I was aiming to satisfy some of the criteria provided by Harlequin for their paranormal romance line, Nocturne. One of those criteria was a length of 40,000 words. I ended up completing the novella prequel first, a more modest length of 20,000 words (I think – when I get my MacBook back from repair I can check for the precise word count, because I do like to be specific), but as I never heard back from that publisher I shopped around for others. I was ans am very happy that Melange Books accepted the novella, and immediately set about continuing my work on the full-sized novel which will follow Mist and Midnight. In the back of my mind, I kept that figure as a goal, though – 40,000 words, enough for a printed novel of standard length in this genre. And as of last night, I passed that goal with much more to do – I am getting closer to the climax, but there is still character development, the conflict between the protagonists…or, in non-English teacher terms, my main characters Rayvin and Grant still have many issues to work out, such as their rampant attraction for each other warring with their distrust of each other. I know there is a night of talk coming, then a quarrel, love making, and then the peak moment… I almost wish I could just work on it all night, but as a mom and a partner, I can’t. Plus, I get frustrated sometimes using my iPad to type; I really, really miss my MacBook for writing. But still…if I didn’t have it, I would not have met my goal, and surpassed it.
This is advice which is often given to authors, and it’s great. If you write what you know, you give it the depth of your experience. You can describe it more succinctly, draw your readers in. But there’s one drawback – if you only write what you know, what happens if you want to write about life in another planet? In a Fae world? There must be some room for flexibility.
I have also run into another piece of advice: write for yourself, first. If you enjoy what you’ve written, chances are that your readers will too. I like this philosophy, and it really works for me. The more I get caught up in the story emerging, the more I enjoy it, and I find my friends do as well. Plus, if I tell myself that it’s just for me, I’m more likely to finish it, to see where it ends.
Outlining, I do, but my outlines are also flexible, dynamic, constantly being reflected on and revised. I enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Finally, a good piece of advice I read once was on Stephenie Meyers’ website, I think — write your favorite scenes first, while you are inspired. I have tried doing this, and find that it is definitely helpful. Margaret Mitchell did this too. I don’t need to write in sequence, but I do find that I end up with more editing in the end. That’s okay, except I don’t like editing my own work. I recently had some tips on a draft I shared with friends, that work is needed on a few areas of inconsistency, but I think I need to finish the novel before I go back and fix it. Otherwise, I may get bogged down, and never see the end of it. And I soooo want to see the end, I know how it’s supposed to go, but when you see it taking shape on the screen, it’s so exciting!
Stalked by a cruel and relentless vampire, Charlotte is on the run. Fleeing the city, the powers of magick her only protection, she couldn’t afford to fall for the hot modern prospector Pike Mahonen. Can she avoid temptation in a small town, to keep them both safe?